I Am Battle Dancing Unicorns With Glitter

EngineofaMillionPlotsFor those of you unfamiliar with Five Iron Frenzy, do yourself a favor and pick up their latest album, “Engine of a Million Plots”. It is an awesome record and I will think more highly of you for owning it.

I’d like to talk about the eighth track for a moment. Indulge me.

The title is “Battle Dancing Unicorns With Glitter” and these are the lyrics:

Shut your face /  high school jerks /  We’re about to show you how this works
Are we cool? /  Laser beams /  We’re about to awesome all your dreams
And you’ll say, “What are you, some kind of computer?”
and we’ll say, “A cyborg pimp from the future.”
And I’m going def for sheezy /  I’m feeling a bit uneasy.

Let’s get this straight: /  oh yeah, we are the champions
We’ll be battle dancing unicorns /  oh yes /  Battle dancing unicorns
It’s not too late /  you could gamble on the heavy hitters
while we’re battle dancing unicorns /  with glitter

Twelve-o-clock? /  Party rock /  We’re hip- hoppin’ and we can’t quite stop
Aggro hair /  Grizzly Bear /  Bet you’ve never met a thousand-aire
Then you’ll say, “Whatever, I think you’re moronic.”
And we’ll say, “Not really, we’re only bionic.”
And you’re still in high school /  but have to acknowledge
that we are professors at Robot Spy College.

To be what I just can’t /  impale myself upon the horns
I’m fighting just to be relevant /  I’ll battle dance some unicorns

I’m battle dancing unicorns /  with glitter.

I love this song. It is everything I’ve come to expect from Five Iron Frenzy. It is clever, sarcastic, and steeped in emotion.

To give you some background about the band and this album in particular, Five Iron Frenzy, or FIF, rode into popularity (at least in Christian circles) on a (short-lived)wave of ska enthusiasm in the late 1990’s. With passionate messages dipped in acerbic wit, they’re songs inspired a dedicated fan base that stayed loyal, even when the band disbanded in 2003.

Then in 2011, a miracle happened. When a countdown to a new website design was misinterpreted as a countdown to a band reunion, the former members of FIF began to discuss seriously the possibility of a comeback tour. And when they launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $30,000 in order to record a new album, their fans met that goal within the first hour of launching and raised over $200,000 by the end of the 30-day campaign. Thus was the new album born.

In “Battle Dancing Unicorns With Glitter”, we get to see the deep-seated insecurities of a band whose popularity is somewhat anachronistic. Is it possible for a band whose heyday was a decade ago to be relevant to its original target audience of high schoolers? In an age where fads pass faster than ever, FIF decides to give it a try, even if they get impaled.

Perhaps the reason this song speaks to me so strongly is because of my interest in writing Young Adult Fiction. Can I be relevant to kids whose language I struggle to understand (for sheezy?), much less speak? The only thing I can do is what Five Iron Frenzy did. Try.

I’ll just ignore the fact that there is no pent-up demand for the release of any books from me in the same way that there was a demand from FIF’s loyal fans. Because some times you just need to bluff it until you make it, right? I mean, am I cool enough to write in the first place?

“Laser beams.”

Book Review | The Warden and the Wolf King by Andrew Peterson

So many of my reviews boil down to something like, “This book was real good.” And that isn’t as helpful as it probably could be. So, even though I do think that the last installment of the Wingfeather Saga was excellent, I’d like to go a step further and give you seven reasons why you should read it. Here goes!

7 Reasons to Read The Warden and the Wolf King by Andrew Peterson

9780988963252Andrew Peterson is a gifted storyteller.

There are writers who are known for creating strong characters. Others have signature plot twists or descriptive language. Andrew Peterson is the full package. In addition to creating some great characters to root for, Peterson keeps the story interesting with unexpected turns. All the while, he shows off his knack as a skilled wordsmith by using the words and the cadence of their reading to put the reader in the desired mood.

The book is told from multiple viewpoints.

Rather than being trapped inside one character’s head, we get to see the tale unfold from all three of the Wingfeather children’s eyes. This helps keep the plot fresh by being in multiple places at the same time. This tactic is a staple of fantasy and Peterson uses it with finesse.

Siblings can learn a thing or two from the Wingfeather kids.

I have two girls, and once they have the attention spans to accommodate longer books, I’m looking forward to reading them the Wingfeather Saga. Peterson doesn’t whitewash the fact that “brother” is just one letter off from “bother,” but neither does he glamorize sibling rivalry. If anything, kids could learn a lot about embracing the fact that siblings are often differently gifted and learning to tolerate some of their more annoying aspects as well. The Wingfeathers may not always get along, but they always show what love looks like when it counts.

Parents can learn a thing or two from the Wingfeather kids.

As a parent, I would love to raise my kids as well as Nia Wingfeather raises hers. And while young readers are imagining the story through the struggles of the children, I’m seeing it from Nia’s eyes. How would I feel if some dark evil was after my kids? How much freedom should I allow my kids when they have a history of making bad choices? What can I do to equip them for the battles they will face rather than trying to fight all of their battles for them? Parents would do well to see how the matriarch of the Wingfeather family handles herself and her kids. She isn’t a perfect mom, but she loves her kids and wants to do the best she can for them. I want the same.

This book came into existence because it was demanded by fans.

In a move that I’ll never understand, after the first two books in this series were published by Waterbrook Press (and they won a bunch of awards and such), the publisher dropped the series right in the middle. Peterson published the third book on his own dime and made it available through his personal channels, but for the fourth book, he appealed to his fans. Andrew Peterson launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the final installment. With the way Kickstarter works, if no one cares enough about a project to fund it within a certain time-frame, then it doesn’t happen. Peterson’s goal was $14,000 (the minimum amount he needed to write, edit, print, and ship the book to the people who funded it) and by the end of the campaign he raised $118,188 (which is quite a bit more). His fans really believed in this book, and with good reason (it is excellent).

Fantastic creatures abound.

If there’s something you expect to see in a fantasy series, it is some fantastic beasts. The Wingfeather Saga doesn’t disappoint, having enough beasts and awesome creatures to warrant a separate book to document the lot (Pembrick’s Creaturepedia).

The end of the book closes the series well.

I’ve read too many book series where the final installment is rushed to print and leaves much to be desired (I’m looking at you, Hunger Games, and from what I’ve heard, Divergent). Either authors don’t know how to wrap the story up or they don’t want to part with their characters, but as a reader, it is so much nicer when the author can pull all the threads of the tale together in a way that is believable and intentional. I’m not saying that I don’t want to read more about the Wingfeathers, but I feel like that the story arc that began in book one has reached a good conclusion in book four.

I firmly believe that the Wingfeather Saga is the next Chronicles of Narnia. I hope Peterson continues to write (when he isn’t too busy as a touring musician). I’ll gladly be part of any crowd-funding effort that ends with another of his books in my hands.

Seriously, go buy a copy today!

One Week Left…

With a dire title like that, you may be reading this to find out if I have only one week left to live. Well, no one really knows when they are going to die, but my title was referring to the Andrew Peterson Wingfeather Saga Kickstarter, not my mortality. Sorry to disappoint.

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If you’ve been paying attention to the Kickstarter campaign for the final book in the Wingfeather Saga, you’ve already seen the tremendous outpouring of support. I mean, the original goal was $14,000 in order to get the book published, and now the campaign has over $80,000 going for it. So why am I talking about it? Am I really going to suggest that you participate in a campaign that has already met its goal many times over?

Yes. I am going to talk about it. I am going to suggest that you participate. Because it’s possible that you missed the posts where I mentioned the campaign. And because you may not have heard about the latest incentive for participation. Along the way, donors have hit every stretch goal for the Kickstarter campaign, making it possible for Andrew Peterson to add illustrations to the final book in the series, to make that book a hardcover, to reproduce book three as a hardcover, to record books three and four as audio books, and to create a “creaturepedia” for the wild beasts mentioned throughout the series. And that’s all pretty cool, but Peterson just added a new stretch goal: a poster-sized, professionally illustrated fantasy map of Aerwiar. But it’ll only be produced if we meet the latest stretch goal of $85,000.

aerwiar_map

Probably the coolest part about all of this is that donors only need to sign up at the $35 “Cave Blat” level in order to get all of the things mentioned above. So for $35, you could get two hardcover books, two digital audiobooks, the “creaturepedia,” and the map (if it happens to be made).

But that isn’t all. Peterson also created a new reward for a special level of backers. If you donate at the “Skonk” level, you are able to “work with Andrew to include a name of your choosing in the world of Aerwiar.” You can be part of the landscape or story! That’s pretty cool.

skonk

I realize that I sound like a TV pitch man, and that isn’t my goal. Really, it isn’t. I’m just excited about the prospect of the final book in this wonderful series and I think that if you knew how good the series was, you’d be excited too. I’d be a jerk not to tell you about it.

So, anyway, you have one week to join up before it’s too late. But if you are thinking about doing it, do it soon. Because no one knows when they are going to die. Oh wait. Too morbid. Forget I said that and click this link to join the campaign.

Related Links:

Play With Lego, Make Money

Okay, I’m skeptical of anything that has “Make Money” in the subject field, and you probably are too. In fact, the most skeptical people probably skipped this post all together, which means that now there’s more money for you and me. Here’s how.

Let’s play with Lego.

As a Lego fan, I was blown away by the discovery of Lego.Cuusoo.com.

I’m trying really hard to not sound like a salesman here, but I’m kind of excited about this, so hold with me for a minute.

Yesterday, I talked about a Kickstarter campaign for author, Andrew Peterson. Lego Cuusoo is kind of like Kickstarter for Lego sets. Basically, if you have an idea for a set that you think Lego should produce commecially, you make it from your own collection of Lego pieces and put it up on Lego Cuusoo. If other people like it and think that Lego HQ should make the set too, they vote for it.

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The DeLorean time machine from Back to the Future only exists as a set you can purchase because of Lego Cuusoo.

And people at Lego HQ take notice. In fact, there are sets available on the market now that are only there because they got voted into existence by the users of Lego Cuusoo. And best yet, if your design is picked for production, you get 1% of all the sales from that set.

That’s pretty darn cool!

So if you don’t see any new posts from me in a while, it’s because I am too busy playing with Lego in the hopes of becoming rich, rich, rich.

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Andrew Peterson’s Kickstarter

Normally, I have a dim view of self-publishing. Back in the day, it was called “vanity publishing,” and I believe that it held that title for a reason. Perhaps it is because I work at a bookstore that is owned by a publisher, but I think publishers play a very important role in finding and producing quality books. When a book is self-published, my first thought is usually, “I bet it’s so bad, no publisher would touch it.”

Some of the self-published books that we sell in our store bear me out in this.

AP_PressPhotoRGB_01_largeBut sometimes, publishers don’t know what they are doing at all. Case in point, Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga.

Musician and storyteller, Andrew Peterson, started a children’s fantasy series a few years back called the Wingfeather Saga. The first book, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, caught my attention and didn’t give it back. It won a Christy Award (a fancy Christian book award) and looked to have a promising run. It was published by a well-known publisher. The next book in the series, North! Or Be Eaten, also won a Christy Award. And then something strange happened.

The publisher dropped the series. They weren’t going to publish book three. I was heartbroken.

I mean, Peterson is a gift storyteller and the story was only halfway through. How could they not publish the rest of the series?

Fortunately, Peterson decided to self-publish book three, The Monster in the Hollows, making it available on his website. My wife and I bought the book and thoroughly enjoyed it. There was nothing in the book that would have given any publisher pause to sell it into bookstores. The previous books in the series had won awards, and the author has quite a platform as a touring musician. On paper, all the components for book success were there. But Peterson had to self-publish it anyway.

That was a couple of years ago now. My wife and I have been waiting on pins and needles for the final book in the series to come out. I assumed that Peterson would just self-publish it again, put the word out on his website, and see it people would buy it after it was produced. Instead, he started a Kickstarter campaign for book four, The Warden and the Wolf King. Being on his email list, I got notification of the Kickstarter so I checked it out right away. Peterson needed $14,000 within one month in order to publish the book. The way the campaign works, if people pledge money but the minimum threshold isn’t met, no one pays and the campaign fails. But if the campaign is over funded, then the author can now fund more cool things.

When I told my wife about the Kickstarter the following day, we decided to sign up and make sure that the fourth book could be produced. But when we clicked over the page, lo and behold, it was already over funded. In fact, now it is massively over funded and some of the “stretch goals” are now funded as well. So, the book is definitely happening, and it is well on track to become a hardcover and an audio book as well. I can’t tell you that you can get in on the ground floor of this campaign anymore, but I can tell you that you need to join up anyway.

So, click over there now and do it! http://kck.st/1bnSDaG

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4 Approaches to Publishing

When I started working at the bookstore, I knew of only two ways that an author gets their book on our store’s bookshelf. One, a publisher sold it to us. And two, the author brought in copies personally and asked us to sell it on a consignment basis.

Technology changes.

That was about eight years ago.

Since then, we’ve gone through a major recession, Amazon has become the dominant player for book sales, and e-books have entered the scene. Technology has advanced, publishers have tightened their belts or disappeared altogether. And whatever happened to Borders bookstore?

The point is that times change. Technology advances. Publishers have had to get smarter on the books they put out and the process they use to get them into people’s hands. The shift has left space for start-ups to come in and introduce new avenues to publishing.

Today, I’m going to spell out 4 ways that books can get published. I’m sure there are more, but I think these are a good place to start.

So, if you have a book that you want published, here are your options:

1. Pure Self-Publishing – You write a book by yourself. You pay someone to print it. Pure and simple. You don’t need anyone messing with your vision. You don’t need any help with things like editing or marketing. But… if you do, you can pay for that too. Many self-publishing companies offer a buffet-style approach to the publishing process by offering marking, book design, and editing as price-per-service items, but instead of making money from those books selling in bookstores, they finance themselves by charging you, the author. Once they are delivered to your garage, they are your responsibility.(Here’s an example.)

What’s the upside? You get a great profit margin on the books that you are able to sell by yourself. You get complete control over the whole process.

Who is this right for? This approach is perfect for rich, confident, and excellent writers who don’t need editors. Preferably, they should either be creative or have creative friends who are willing to do things like book design for them.

2. Smart (Low-Risk) Self-Publishing – You write the book. You edit the book. You list the book among a digital library of thousands of other books waiting for someone, anyone, to come along who want to read it. Once you get 1,000 people who want to read your book badly enough to buy it (based on a synopsis and roughly 10 pages of your writing), this company will publish your books. If not enough people sign up for your book in a given time, everyone gets their money back. This is the Kickstarter approach to self-publishing. (Here’s an example.)

What’s the upside? No investment other than your time. The people paying for your book are the people who want to actually read it.

Who is this right for? This approach is perfect for timid people who know 1,000 people who like them enough to pay for their book. This is also good for people who are jaded to traditional publishing rejection letters and would rather convince thousands of ordinary people than one more mean acquisitions editor.

3. Publisher Assisted E-book Publishing – You write the book. You submit the book directly to the publisher (no agent needed). The book is treated just like any other book submission. If the publisher likes it, they offer you a publishing deal, but for e-book format only. The books still gets touched (an improved) by editors, marketing teams, and graphics design professionals, but without all the nasty costs of physically producing the book. The book is shipped out to the digital marketplace and the author makes a percentage of the profits from the book sales. (Here’s an example.)

What’s the upside? Getting in front of a publisher is a tricky business, especially without a good agent. This is a way to get your material read by people who know what they are doing. If they like you enough, maybe your next book will get published in a physical format.

Who is this right for? This format is perfect for people who are convinced that print is dead and that digital is the only format that matters anymore. This is also good for people who have given up on the prospect of actually seeing their book on a physical bookshelf in a brick-and-mortar store, but still want people to have some kind of access to the book that they have sunk so much of their life and time into.

4. Traditional Publishing – You write the book. You either approach a smaller publishing house or a writing agency. Miracles happen. Your book is chosen for publication. They publisher treats it to editing, graphic design, marketing. The publisher pays to have the book printed (and probably put into e-book format too). The printed book is pitched to bookstores and chains. The book is advertised (if you are lucky) to potential readers. Advanced reader copies (or ARCs) are given to key influencers for review and to start the word of mouth advertising. The book is released. You do a book tour, speaking and signing and generally getting more famous by the second (or possibly not). If the book is successful, you’ll probably be asked to write some more. If the book is not successful, you give up on the dream entirely and take up something like underwater basket weaving or Canasta or something. (Here’s an example.)

What is the upside? This is the average writer’s dream. To be accepted by a publisher is to be validated by a credible source for the hours of your life that you spent in writing this book. Publishers have a better chance of promoting your book than you do on your own.

Who is this right for? This approach is perfect for writers who trust the publishing process and still want to see their work in bookstores across the country. Sure, you get a smaller cut of the profits, and sure, there is no guarantee that your book will sell if published by a reputable publisher (something like 90% of them don’t), but that doesn’t matter to you, because this is what you always dreamed about.

Do none of these options seem right to you? Maybe you don’t want to be a published author after all. In the words of Herman Baker, founder of Baker Book House and Baker Publishing Group:

If you have given up already as a result of this article, nothing is lost. You would have fallen by the wayside anyway. You can thank me for saving you time and effort.